One of the best skits that ever appeared on comedian Dave Chappelle’s hit television show, the Chappelle Show, was one called ‘When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong.’ Each skit would highlight the outcome of what would happen to individuals who made the choice to ‘keep it real.’ In every skit, it showed how a person’s decision to ‘keep it real’ led to a negative outcome for them doing so. In other words, when you decide to ‘keep it real’ there are consequences for your actions, which could backfire on you.
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to ‘keep it real’, but in his case, he came out on top.
All in spite of receiving pushback from those who disagreed with his stance; in spite of being blackballed from playing the game he loved; in spite of being vilified by countless people, including NFL owners (and even the President of the United States); in spite of everything that was thrown his way, Kaepernick proved that when you stand up for what you believe in, even if you have to stand alone, you can win.
More importantly, Kaepernick showed that you can motivate and inspire at least one other person to stand with you when the odds are stacked against you and make a major statement and significant impact.
This past week, it was reported that Kaepernick, who filed a grievance against the National Football League (NFL) back in October of 2017, had reached a settlement with the NFL for a substantial amount of money. Kaepernick had not played a game in the NFL since early 2017. Kaepernick filed the grievance and accused NFL owners of working in collusion to deliberately keep him from playing quarterback in the league, because of his much-publicized stance of pointing out racial injustice and police brutality by protesting and taking a knee during the national anthem of each game during the 2016 NFL season.
It was also reported that his former San Francisco 49ers teammate, safety Eric Reid, who was one of the only other players to consistently stand with Kaepernick from the beginning of his initial protest, has settled his collusion grievance against the NFL for a significant amount of money.
While the details of both settlement agreements are undisclosed due to a confidentially agreement between all parties, it has been reported that Kaepernick’s settlement amount alone is somewhere in the ballpark of $60 to $80 million. Reid’s settlement is reported to be significantly less, but he still received a settlement, which means that both he and Kaepernick proved, over these past two years, that the NFL was wrong and did not want the truth to come out.
If the NFL was innocent of these charges, and had the evidence to prove their innocence, they would have fought tooth and nail to crush Kaepernick and Reid. But Kaepernick and Reid stood together and came out victorious, not just because they received a financial settlement, but because they were able to stand up against the Goliath known as the NFL and show that you can’t silence the voice of Black people.
There were several NFL players who joined in with Kaepernick at the start of his protests in 2016, but the majority of those NFL players fell by the wayside. Reid, not only stood with Kaepernick when he was his 49ers teammate, he has also stood with Kaepernick after he got blackballed from the league. Reid could have abandoned Kaepernick and abandoned the cause, but he stood his ground and stayed true.
Things got so bad for Reid, that when he became a safety for the Carolina Panthers during the 2018 NFL season, he claimed that he was being targeted by the NFL via their performance-enhancing drug-testing program. After his December 17 game against the New Orleans Saints, Reid claimed that he had been ‘randomly’ selected to take a drug test for the seventh time since joining the Panthers the year prior. Reid strongly argued that there was nothing ‘random’ about the drug tests he was being selected for and that he was being targeted simply because he joined in with Kaepernick to file a collusion grievance of his own against the league.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) issued statements last month, stating that there was “no evidence of targeting or any other impropriety with respect to his selection for testing.”
Reid may not have proven that these drug tests were far from ‘random’, but he and Kaepernick were able to prove that the NFL was guilty of trying to bully them into submission, sought to silence their voices and make them compliant with their demands to stop their protests. It didn’t work and the NFL had to pay for it dearly.
This is a huge win for Kaepernick and Reid, and a prime example of how at least one person can influence others, as well as how a small number of people (in this case, Kaepernick and Reid) can change the game of football and change the game of life in a major way.
The NFLPA released a statement regarding the news of the settlement, stating:
“We continuously supported Colin and Eric from the start of their protests, participated with their lawyers throughout their legal proceedings and were prepared to participate in the upcoming trial in pursuit of both truth and justice for what we believe the NFL and its clubs did to them. We are glad that Eric has earned a job and a new contract, and we continue to hope that Colin gets his opportunity as well.”
If we look at the course of American history, we see that grassroots advocacy, like protests, have been around for a long time and have been used to bring about significant change in this country.
If you look at Black historical figures like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali and several others who have led protests to speak out against injustice, it is clear that those civil rights champions used their platforms and influence to address the myriad issues that have negatively impacted Black people in America during their time.
And sadly, those civil rights advocates who we highlight and talk about every year during Black History Month did not have the type of support we are afforded today. As a matter of fact, many of them had just a handful of supporters getting behind their cause during their era, with some of them having little to no support at all, even from those that looked like them.
Kaepernick isn’t the first Black person to have been vilified in this country for going against the grain, challenging the status quo or taking a controversial stance on issues.
Both, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Muhammad Ali, spoke out against the Vietnam War and were deemed traitors to their country and were even called communists while they were alive.
After Dr. King’s speech in New York, criticizing the Vietnam War, other civil rights leaders who once stood with him, began to distance themselves from him and he was heavily castigated in local and national newspapers. Very few people stood with him.
Ali was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title and sent to jail after refusing to join the U.S. Army to go fight in the Vietnam War. He ignored the request to be inducted into the military at the Armed Forces Induction Center in Houston, Texas, and was eventually arrested, convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from boxing for three years.
Interestingly enough, Dr. King has a federal holiday in his honor and the legacy of Ali is revered today.
As it has been with Dr. King and Ali, time will also be good to Kaepernick, and the history books will be even better to him for his bold and courageous act.
Many publications that are a part of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a trade group that represents over 200 Black-owned media companies across the U.S., have chronicled Kaepernick’s story and have been a part of ensuring he will be forever remembered for his legacy defining act of strength and courage.
Throughout this entire ordeal, Kaepernick has served as a master teacher, who has taught the nation how to use the power of the platform they possess, be prepared to pay the price for the sacrifices they make and learn to endure the criticism they receive, because in due time, they will go down in the history books as a true catalyst for change.
Now, the real question becomes, will the NFL allow Kaepernick to come back and play the game he loves without further collusion? Time will tell and the nation will be watching.
(Jeffrey Boney is an NNPA Newswire and contributor and the associate editor for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is an award-winning journalist, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance Follow Jeffrey on Twitter @realtalkjunkies.)